Spooked by Trump, Central American immigrants turn to Mexico

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Central American immigrants turn to Mexico
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Central American immigrants turn to Mexico
A woman from Honduras, 20, who didn't want to be identified and who is hoping to get refugee status in Mexico, poses for a photograph with her daughter at a migrant shelter, known as The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 12, 2017. "Back home it's very dangerous because of the gangs and I have three more children. Mexico is a better opportunity for us," she said. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
Swings hang at a park in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
Concepcion Bautista, 39, from Guatemala poses for a photograph with her newborn baby and her son at a migrant shelter, known as The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 12, 2017. Bautista fled Guatemala after gang members threatened to kill her and seized her home, demanding money to give it back. Her ultimate goal is to reunite with her father and two sons up north, but for the time being, she believes applying for asylum in Mexico is smarter than trying to break into Trump's United States. "I'm not going back to Guatemala," she said. "I have faith that we'll be able to cross but for now, at least, I'm staying in Mexico." REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
A woman from Honduras, 40, who didn't want to be identified and who is hoping to get refugee status in Mexico, poses for a photograph with her children at a migrant shelter, known as The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 12, 2017. "I left Honduras because of violence, threats and extortion. I was tired working really hard and giving my money to the gangs weekly," she said. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
Edith Torres, 18, from Honduras poses for a photograph with her newborn baby at a migrant shelter, known as The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 12, 2017. "I left Honduras for a better future whether it's in Mexico or in the United States. In Honduras it's very difficult," Torres said. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
A woman from El Salvador, 40, who didn't want to be identified and who is hoping to get refugee status in Mexico, poses for a photograph with her children at a migrant shelter, known as The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 12, 2017. "I left our home in El Salvador because of violence. I already lost one of my children in a shootout. I just want to live in peace with my children in Mexico or in the United States," she said. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
Vehicles cross railway tracks in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
Migrants walk after crossing into Mexico, near the border between Mexico and Guatemala in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
A woman from Honduras who didn't want to be identified and who is hoping to get refugee status in Mexico, poses for a photograph with her children at a migrant shelter, known as The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 12, 2017. "I left Honduras because of violence and extortion from gang members," she said. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
Ale, 34, from Guatemala poses for a photograph with her children, Luis (L) and Maria at a migrant shelter, known as The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 12, 2017. "We had a small business in Guatemala and gang members used to extort us. We would like to start over in Mexico or in the United States," said Ale. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso
Guatemalans wait to cross into Mexico at the border between Mexico and Guatemala on the outskirts of Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso
People walk near the border between Mexico and Guatemala in Ceibo, on the outskirts of Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
Men fish on the banks of the Usumacinta River in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
Welquin Rivera, 34, from Honduras talks on a mobile phone at a migrant shelter, known as The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico April 10, 2017. Rivera was deported from the United States back to his homeland four moths ago. Now he is trying to go back to the States to be reunited with his four children. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
A pair of shoes lie on railway tracks in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
Migrants from Central America eat inside a migrant shelter, known as The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
Mobile phones are seen at a migrant shelter, known as The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
Migrants from Central America play football inside a migrant shelter, known as The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
A woman from Honduras, 19, who is pregnant and who didn't want to be identified, poses for a photograph at a migrant shelter, known as The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 12, 2017. "I have three children back home in Honduras. I was part of a gang. I don't want that anymore, I got shot once in the leg. It's very dangerous to live there. I would like to go to the United States and take my children with me," she said. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
Amanda stands by her house in La Palma, Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 11, 2017. Amanda hosts migrants and provides them with food and a place to sleep for free so they can continue their journey. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
Edith Torres, 18, from Honduras stands with her newborn baby at a migrant shelter, known as The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico April 12, 2017. "I left Honduras for a better future whether it's in Mexico or in the United States. In Honduras it's very difficult," Torres said. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
Migrants from Central America play cards at a migrant shelter, known as The 72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
Adalberto Rodriguez, 58, from Honduras crosses into Mexico on his way to the United States, near the border between Mexico and Guatemala in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico, April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso 
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TENOSIQUE, Mexico, May 5 (Reuters) - Cradling her newborn son in a steamy migrant shelter near the Guatemalan border, Concepcion Bautista says she still plans to reach the United States, but will linger in Mexico to see how U.S. President Donald Trump's immigration policies play out.

Bautista fled Guatemala after gang members threatened to kill her and seized her home, demanding money to give it back.

Her ultimate goal is to reunite with her father and two sons up north, but for the time being, she believes applying for asylum in Mexico is smarter than trying to break into Trump's United States.

"I'm not going back to Guatemala," the 39-year-old said at the shelter in the southern Mexican city of Tenosique. "I have faith that we'll be able to cross but for now, at least, I'm staying in Mexico."

The Trump administration has pointed to a sharp decline in immigrant detentions in the first few months of this year as a vindication for the president's tough immigration policies, which have sent shudders through immigrant communities across the continent.

Mexican asylum data and testimony from migrants in Tenosique suggest that although fewer Central Americans are trying to enter the United States, plenty are still fleeing their poor, violent home countries, with many deciding to stay longer in Mexico, which has traditionally been a transit country.

The number of people applying for asylum in Mexico has soared by more than 150 percent since Donald Trump was elected president, Reuters reported last month, while some Mexican immigrants would rather set up in Canada than the United States.

Between Trump's election in November and March, 5421 people applied for asylum in Mexico, up from 2148 people in the same period a year earlier, Mexican government data shows.

Samuel, who used a pseudonym, was threatened with death after gangs kidnapped and murdered his 19-year-old son in El Salvador, prompting him to plan a move with his family to the United States. Trump's election changed everything.

"I wanted to go to the United States with my family, but we've seen that the new government there has made things harder," said Samuel,

"For the time being, we want to stay here in Mexico, and we've already applied for refugee status."

Asylum applications in Mexico rose steadily in recent years as the flow of people leaving Central America increased. But in 2016, as Trump campaigned on a tough anti-immigration platform, applicants jumped to 8,781, up from just under 3,500 in 2015. Mexico's refugee agency COMAR predicts it could receive more than 22,500 asylum applications in 2017.

Despite their concerns, some Central Americans are undeterred and have decided to try their luck at entering the United States.

In a remote, rocky tract of land near the Guatemalan border, Feliciano del Cid and two traveling companions were trying to sneak past Mexican immigration officers and avoid being assaulted by gang members on their long trek north.

The 60-year-old Guatemalan said the prices charged by people smugglers had risen sharply since Trump took office, now hovering around $10,000 dollars, up from about $6,000 a few years ago.

With Mexico's immigration authorities controlling migration more assiduously, Central Americans were forced to take more isolated, dangerous routes where the chances of being mugged were higher. "We've gone north (to the United States) several times, but every time it's got harder," said del Cid, who was deported from the United States in December. "(Now,) it's better if we travel alone, along new routes."

Irrespective of struggles in Mexico and the hard journey north, all of the migrants were certain they did not want to return home.

"Only death awaits me there," said Samuel.

(Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

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